Thursday, April 22, 2021

What Can Evangelicals Do Now...The Attraction Factor of Jesus

Bay and I just returned from 12 days in Indiana speaking and serving Jesus at different venues.

The Lord's faithfulness traveled before us, and we certainly felt His hand anointing us for each event and conversation. 

We arrived home two nights ago, a little weary, but extremely grateful.

Several times I ended up in conversations about the rise of progressivism, as the leaders in historically Christian churches (even in the heartland of America) suffer the effects (the recent statistics showing the decline in evangelical churches, which paint a dismal picture overall).

Even while touring The Ark Encounter, we stopped to listen to an informative live session with Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis, and his first three slides touched on the very same stats I am seeing. 

Around the table one evening, we were asked this question, "So, what can evangelicals do? Will opposing those we see slipping toward progressivism be at all helpful?"

Great questions, which I've pondered.

I've begun jotting down some thoughts, and while too many for one blog, I have one Biblical passage worthy of consideration (though you already know how important I think digging deep in the study of God's Word is!)...

In every letter to the churches Paul founded, he wrote the same greeting:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ....

It's more than just a lengthy way to say "Hello," or "Dear So-and-So, I hope you are doing well..." 

To the Apostle Paul, as God breathes on the words he writes, EVERY WORD MATTERS!

He writes with intention. 

What he says he means.

What he puts before the readers, in essence, bubbles up in prayer from his heart.

He's not just saying, "hey there," He is offering up a whispered supplication from the depths of his soul for those to whom he is writing.

Since this prayerful greeting is in every epistle, it's important. 

Where you and I frequently gloss over it as we read, the churches understood the deeper meaning of those two words:

Grace

&

Peace

And that is exactly where I've landed in answering the question: "what can evangelicals do now?" 

Just as in the churches to whom Paul wrote, the Church today needs to exude the same "grace and peace..."

It should seep out of pores to the world around us.

William Barclay says in his commentary to Galatians: 

"When Paul prays for grace on his friends, it is as if he is saying, 'may the beauty of the wonderment of the underserved love of God be on you, so it will make your life lovely, too.'" 

More than anything, the evangelical church needs to be in wonder and awe at the grace that has been extended to us.

When it becomes "ordinary," we lose our sense of worship, and when we lose our sense of worship, the Lord Himself loses His mystery, and He becomes ordinary, too.

When Jesus becomes ordinary, He fails to attract the lost.

BUT, when we fully grasp the meaning of GRACE, we can't help but extend that same GRACE to others.

When we become consumed with the actions of Jesus on the cross on our behalf, we live a different lifestyle, one "worthy of His calling."  --- NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! out of a have-to (legalism), but out of a want-to (love)! ---

And, when we are swept up in the GRACE OF GOD for us, there is an unmistakable PEACE that reigns in our hearts.

Peace is the fruit of grace.

It's a complete absence of worry, of unrest, of hostility toward others, of contentment, and acceptance to the Sovereignty of God...

When GRACE is gained, PEACE follows - it is simply a logical order.

What can the evangelical church do right now? 

From heaven this prayer of Paul's still rises like incense to the Throne of Grace on our behalf...

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ....

Grace and peace are the two greatest indistinguishable marks of a Jesus-Follower. 

When we sit in awe and wonder, peace reigns...and we help others see just how attractive Jesus is. 


Let's raise His attraction-factor followers of Jesus!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Is the Gospel Really Being Perverted Today?

Easter Sunday, I found myself stumbling over my lower lip once again, as my jaw dropped upon reading a Twitter message by the senior pastor at the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. served years ago.  

I believe MLK possibly rolled over in his grave (it's obvious from below that he believed in the Gospel).

Here's the quote I read on Easter Sunday:

"The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves."


A couple days later, I read this statement on another social media platform, written by a young woman who describes herself as a "recovering evangelical" (this is a very common term for many in the progressive Christian movement):

"I found (speaking of her evangelical upbringing) the whole repentance (of sin) process to be a mechanism for guilt and shame, and instead of finding freedom, I found self-hatred and a proclivity for making the same "mistakes"... Now that I no longer try to meet some sort of expectation created by Christian culture, I can learn from my decisions and try to do better. No shame necessary - just learning and constant improvement." 

XXXXX

Why do I share these statements?

Jesus-followers, WE MUST BE AWARE of the new gospel that is invading our current religious culture.

On the extreme side of progressivism:

  • There is no need for the substitutionary atonement of sin.
  • Jesus did not need to die on our behalf.
  • The cross is a non-value...
  • The resurrection...UNNECESSARY!

We simply:
1) commit to helping others (and find salvation)

2) learn from our mistakes and do better

3) eliminate any concept of shame-based-godly-sorrow, rejecting it simply as a mechanism for entrapment 

4) find freedom from self-hatred by ridding oneself of any cultural expectations (you do you)...

XXXXX

Please ponder these things deeply -

Do you understand what is being said, really comprehend it?

We don't need Jesus.

God's love for the world revealed through the giving of His Son is obsolete.


I am my own Savior.

I can work my way to heaven (or Nirvana, or...).

I am the master of my own destiny.

I simply jump through the right hoops.

I only have to improve enough to be "good enough." 

BUT - how good is good enough?

If salvation is left in my hands, I am doomed.

So are you - no matter how good you are; no matter how well you learn from your past; no matter how well you dispense of cultural expectations; no matter how much you serve the poor...

These ideas may sound better than the pure gospel for a season...

They may even seem more loving...

But, there are a lot of holes left to be filled...

Right here is where my own testimony began.

As a kid I thought I had to be good enough to achieve heaven. 

I lived in fear I couldn't come close to being good enough...

Finally, I gave up trying entirely and landed in that pit I talked about last week. 

Fortunately, there to rescue me: Jesus! 

No matter how hard we will try, we can not save ourselves. 

In everything: Give me Jesus!

XXXXX

The great need of our time is to tune our ears to the (metaphoric) music and the songs being sung by those who would promote a perverted gospel!

The Apostle Paul makes it clear how he feels about those who do:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8)


"Let them be accursed": it's a strong word! It means "doomed to destruction." Even saying that, Paul's heart was breaking, later he says to them, I "labored" over you like a mother in child-birth, and now I am laboring again... 

And, it is for this reason, this "doubling over in emotional pain," that Paul dropped often to his knees, weeping prayers over the churches to fully comprehend the height, depth, width, and scope of God's love.


The Gospel REALLY IS being perverted today.

It's an AGE OLD problem.

The enemy is using the same tactics with a different twist.

Paul's pain and his starting place need be ours, as well:

On our knees before the Father, praying for Him, to change the narrative of the gospel in the hearts of the sheep that are wandering astray. 


Thursday, April 8, 2021

When I Don't Know What to Say; What Do I Say?

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of introducing myself, and my Jesus-story, to some of the Christian women in Dulce, NM.

Dulce is a small community on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, only 40 minutes from our home. 

Since early last summer, Bay and I have been praying for Dulce, for the pastors, for the gospel to spread, for revival to occur, and leaders to rise up in the community to live Jesus.

We recognize the great mission field that sits so near to us! 

We've been attending the different churches there, alternating each week we are in town, just to let them know we want to be a come-alongside-presence. 

When the ladies at New Life asked if I'd be interested in sharing at a women's gathering right before Easter, my heart leaped! 

Yes!

I never turn down an occasion to share my testimony...

...and, as I prepared, I recognized, for the first time (I've always been a bit slow), mine is totally a RESURRECTION STORY, applicable for Easter.

In 1970, I found myself lost and in a pit from which I couldn't escape, "dead in my trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1)."

Without the cross and the resurrection of Jesus, there'd be NO SAVIOR to incline Himself to my cries and pull me from that pit and raise me to new life, planting my feet on a ROCK (that Rock, of course, was Jesus - 1 Corinthians 10:4)!

Psalm 40:1-3 encapsulates my testimony clearly:

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Each of us who are Jesus-followers have our own RESURRECTION STORY, and the Lord, as He did with the Apostle Paul, set us apart and called us to speak it when opportunities arise.

We never know who will put their trust in Him, because of a ready-willingness to share our stories.

This leads me to my point of pondering this week.

As the Apostle Paul scolds the Galatian church for being so easily led astray by another gospel, which isn't the real good news that brings LIFE, he spills a lot of ink convincing them of the truth of salvation through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.

These "Judaizers" plaguing the Galatian church say salvation is faith in Jesus + following the laws of the Torah...

The folks in the Galatian church argue that Paul isn't a real apostle.

They criticize him for being a pleaser of men.

They question his authority.

What's Paul's comeback?

He simply starts by telling them his own RESURRECTION STORY. 

For Paul, that is proof enough.

It should be for us, as well...

Paul shows them the "old Paul" - exhibit A.

The persecutor who wanted to see the church of God ravaged. 

He turns and presents the new Paul - exhibit B.

The preacher of faith in Jesus propagating the church everywhere he traveled.

As William Barclay says in his commentary on Galatians:

Every effect must have an adequate cause!

In other words, for there to be such a drastic change there has to be a drastic explanation;

and, the only explanation for such a transformation is the intervention of God!

In this day and age with progressive Christianity on the rise, there is another gospel being proclaimed (more specifics next week), just like it was in Paul's day.

Today, shaking his head in sorrow, Paul's response would be similar, "I'm perplexed by you so quickly deserting him who called you, turning to a different gospel (ESV)..."

With tears, he'd do exactly what he did in 50 AD! He'd tell his story.

Here's what I'm more aware of than ever: I don't need to be able to debate apologetics to talk with a progressive Christian adequately.

(and, while it is important to study "why you believe what you believe," you don't either...)

When I don't know what to say, I simply share my Resurrection Story. 

Show them exhibit A.

Present exhibit B. 

Recount that drastic transformation that comes with an equally drastic explanation:

How -

He inclined Himself toward me.

He heard my cries.

He lifted me from the pit of my destruction...

He set my feet upon a ROCK...

And, I have NEVER BEEN THE SAME!

There's no other explanation for my story...

Simply Jesus.

Speak Life! Share Your Story!

XXXXXX

The Pastor of New Life and his wife, Esther, are temporarily caring for one month old, Grace. Someone needed to hold her for about an hour after the Saturday event (at least she told me so). It was difficult, but I managed... What a joy to rock her, cuddle her, kiss her, and pray Jesus' love consume her as she grows. Join me in praying for little Gracie. 



Saturday, April 3, 2021

Jesus Needed Saturday....and, Sometimes, So Do We!



By the time, Saturday rolled around, I'm sure Jesus-followers were wondering if life would ever be normal again.

Grief does that.

So does fear.

Top that with doubts and questions and mocking-voices-in-the-head, and it's no wonder all of Jesus' disciples disappeared in hiding.

For these, Saturday loomed darker than Friday.

This morning, I'm vividly aware that tomorrow is Sunday.

Resurrection Day.

But, they had no clue.

Jesus, their HOPE for a better tomorrow, died!

Picture their Saturday...without any concept of Easter.

(Truth is they had been given clues from Jesus, but those clues seemed to have been nailed to the cross right along with Him.)



XXXXX

There was more to Saturday from Jesus' side of the grave...

while earth seemed silent in grief, the behind-the-scene from tomb-side? Not so much!!!


Jesus was busy.

Busy in a world that no one else could see; and, His Saturday was anything but quiet... 

We don't know exactly what happened, but we get snippets in Ephesians 4:7-8, Colossians 2:15, and 1 Peter 3:15-18.  

What we do know is Jesus descended into a place, which we know nothing about, and proclaimed TRUTH to those who were being held captive there.


What we do know is that He made a public display of the enemy He had triumphed over through His death. 



Jesus needed Saturday in order to prepare for Sunday's Grand Event... 

So, while the disciples spent Saturday greatly distressed, Jesus spent it busily preparing for their new life to come following his GLORIOUS RESURRECTION.  

Come Sunday morning, their fear would be replaced with courage, their sadness and grief would be replaced with joy.  The confusion would be cleared up, and they would be given a mission of their own to proclaim.  

The lesson of Saturday, for me, is this:  

No matter what life's issues may be in the Saturday's of our lives, there will always be a Sunday when we are in Christ Jesus.  

Jesus is always at work preparing for it, in a place we can't see, and the result?  GREAT JOY!  

Joy always, always, comes in the morning! (Ps. 30:5). 


Our mourning will always be turned to dancing (Jeremiah 31:13)!


Sunday is coming!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday: Jesus Loved Us With the Cross


Good Friday.

Crucifixion Day.

"Yes, the darkness of this day is real, and it is painful. It should cause us to wince, to mourn, to grow quiet as we gaze soberly upon the wounded Christ hanging on His cross. It should cause us to repent of our sin—the sin He carried and suffered for in our place. But it should also cause us to worship. It is by His wounds that we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). It is His suffering that brought us peace (Isaiah 66:12)."

#SheReadsTruth




It was a dark day.

In EVERY way - dark!

And painful.

Blood had to be shed.


God required it.

There was only one way to cover my sins.

...and yours.

And so on that one, blessed, dark and painful day. Jesus chose to die.

For the forgiveness of my sin.

For yours...

The righteous for the unrighteous.


So, with Jesus' will surrendered to the Father, He chose the dark and painful path...

And, all the while (EVERY! SINGLE! SECOND! of it!), you and I were on His mind...

In His heart...

RIGHT there on the cross.


So, yes.

Today is about:

REMEMBERING. 

REFLECTING.

REPENTING.

WORSHIPPING.


Can I ask a favor?  Please take just a few minutes of your time. Go to this link. Close your eyes. Listen to the words of this song (it's being sung by a dear friend of ours in England, taped a few years ago). THE MESSAGE IS SO FRESH...SO WORTH the meditation on this Friday.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday: Oh How He Loves!

Maundy Thursday.

Or, "Commandment Thursday."

On Thursday, Jesus went back to Jerusalem from Bethany. Here, on this day, He spent His final hours feasting, loving, serving, and instructing His disciples.

Not just His current disciples, but all of us to come.

Thursday is the day of the Last Supper.


Of all the things Jesus instituted as a part of this day, this commandment is the one that resonates down through the ages.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another...
John 13:34-35


Throughout His life, Jesus demonstrated what this looked like.

Truth is, Jesus' brand of love went against the grain of religious thought. 

Jesus' love was like nails scratching on a chalkboard; because...

Jesus' love was controversial...

To understand, one has to know the social ladder of Jesus' day.


Start at the top rung and go down:

At the top were the Jewish religious leaders.

Then came...

The wealthy...

The blue collar workers...

The poor, the sick, the lame...

Women...

Children & Slaves....

Canaanites and Samaritans...

Tax Collectors...

Sinners...

(Animals fell in there somewhere, too, generally above children and slaves...maybe even the women...)

Look at this list closely. What do you see?

I see Jesus turning the social ladder upside down when it came to loving people!

Jesus turned the social ladder upside down when it came to love!


Jesus began at the bottom of the rung and moved up.

One of His first disciples was a tax collector.

The first person He introduced Himself to as Messiah was a woman....and a Samaritan at that!

He always had time for children and "the least of these."

He touched the untouchables.

He healed the sick.

He ate with tax collectors and sinners, alike...He even allowed one sinner (a woman!) to wash His feet with her tears...

He gave honor and dignity to a Canaanite woman who wanted "scraps from His table of love."

And, then, at this Last Supper, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist, and lowered Himself to the floor, washing His disciples feet. 

Serving them. 

Setting a new example...and, giving us a new commandment:

 For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you.  I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13:15-17


The fact is, Jesus demolished the social ladder completely. This is the thing about Jesus:

Jesus stooped as low as He could to love wholly and completely.

He even died on a cross, to illustrate this truth: "Greater love has no man than this: that He lay down His life for His friends."


That's the New Commandment He passed on to me. 

To you.

Love low.

Love great.

Live loved.

Here's what Jesus taught us that night in the upper room:  

Lovingly wash the feet of the unlovable, the untouchable, and unthinkably "sinful" people of this world.  


(By the way, isn't that all of us?) 



His life and death focused on loving and serving others - from the least of these to the greatest...

Not just those who are easy to love.

All of us....

XXXXX

I confess.

Sometimes...

...This is a hard teaching.